SBJ/October 8 - 14, 2007/This Weeks News

Roth, Sounders boss, Vulcan to own new Seattle MLS club

MLS will expand to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, adding a team in Seattle that will be owned by Hollywood executive Joe Roth, USL Seattle Sounders managing partner Adrian Hanauer and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.

League and team sources said MLS’s board has conditionally approved the expansion group. An announcement of the expansion is expected before the MLS playoffs begin in late October.

Hanauer said reports of MLS expansion to Seattle were premature, adding, “We’re working on it, but nothing is finalized.”

Sources said the Seattle group will pay a $35 million expansion fee for the team. Roth and Hanauer will be the primary investors and will control approximately 50 percent and 25 percent of the team, respectively.

Allen will control the remaining 25 percent of the team in exchange for letting it play rent-free at 67,000-seat Qwest Field. The Seahawks staff also will handle ticket and sponsorship sales, sources said.

Ives Galarcep of the Herald News in New Jersey reported that the team will continue to use the Sounders name. The name is currently controlled by Seattle Sounders Soccer Club LLC, which Hanauer manages as majority owner. The name has considerable equity, stemming from its use by Seattle’s NASL team and the current USL team’s multiple championships.

The expansion will make Seattle the league’s 15th team. MLS is expected to add a 16th team for 2009 and expand to 18 teams by 2010.

The leading candidates for the 16th expansion team include St. Louis, Philadelphia and Portland. Attorney Jeff Cooper heads the group in St. Louis, which has already secured city council support for a soccer-specific stadium in Collinsville, Ill. Philadelphia’s group is working on a stadium in Chester, Pa., and has gotten support from Jay Sugarman, CEO of publicly traded finance company iStar Financial.

Merritt Paulson, son of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, is leading the Portland group and said MLS expansion to Seattle “is not a mutually exclusive scenario for Portland.”

Other cities vying for franchises include New York and Phoenix, but they are considered candidates for a secondary round of expansion that sources expect will occur ahead of the 2010 season.

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